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Understanding Mechanisms of Human Social Interaction using Interactive Avatars

Final Report Summary - INTERACT (Understanding Mechanisms of Human Social Interaction using Interactive Avatars)

The INTERACT project aimed to understand the neural and cognitive mechanisms of human mimicry behaviour, using this as a model for non-verbal social interaction more generally. To achieve this, we have developed new virtual reality methods which allow people to imitate a virtual human and be imitated by that virtual human in return. Using this method, we have found that one reason that people copy each other is to send a social signal, and that being copied is not always a positive but can have mixed effects. We have been able to build new models of the brain networks which support imitation behaviour, and to show why people with autism may not always imitate as much. We have also hosted events for researchers across Europe to discuss the interface between psychology and computer science and explore new ideas in this cross-disciplinary domain.